Country of originHawaii Territory of Hawaii
CreatorOriginal Kajukenbo: Adriano Emperado, Peter Young Yil Choo, Joe Holck, Frank Ordonez and Clarence Chang[1][2]
Famous practitionersSage Northcutt, Chuck Liddell, Don Stroud, Glover Teixeira
ParenthoodKara-Ho Kempo, Danzan-ryu Jujutsu, judo, Tang Soo Do, Shotokan karate, boxing, chin na, Ng Ying Kung Fu, arnis[3]

Kajukenbo (Japanese: カジュケンボ) is a hybrid martial art from Hawaii. It was developed in the late 1940s and founded in 1947 in the Palama Settlement on Oahu, Territory of Hawaii.[4]

Kajukenbo training incorporates a blend of striking, kicking, throwing, takedowns, joint locks and weapon disarmament.[3]

Today, Kajukenbo is practiced all over the world in many different branches. In contrast to many traditional martial arts, students are not required to mimic their teacher, but are encouraged to develop their own "expression" of the art after they first master the system.[5]


The name Kajukenbo is a combination of the various arts from which its style is derived. The name of the system has been derived from the beginnings of the names of the styles that had become components of kajukenbo:[3][6][7][failed verification][8]



In the late 1940s, the Palama Settlement was a violent area. Because of this environment, five martial artists from varying backgrounds, initially known as the "Black Belt Society", came together with the goal of developing an art that would be practical and effective on the street. These founders sought to develop one style that would complement each of their individual styles and yet allow for effective fighting at a greater variety of ranges and speeds.[9][10][11]

The five founding members of Kajukenbo were:[6][1][2]

Of the five, Adriano Directo Emperado is often attributed to be the founder.[14][15] In its conception, the founders followed a simple rule: if a technique worked consistently on the street (or against one another), then it stayed in the system; if it did not, it was discarded. This allowed the style to maintain its self-defense focus, while covering limitations found within each of their traditional arts.[16]

For two years (1945-1947) these five teachers put their knowledge into practice, rehearsing every day possible situations of aggression in real life. Furthermore, it was designed to exemplify the best aspects of American culture, such as courage, pragmatism and deep personal conviction, all the while maintaining the rich cultures of their induvidual Asian heritages.[9] Later they decided to call this system kajukenbo (referring to the initials of the martial arts that compose it) and created the Black Belt Society.

Initially, the school that would become the first Kajukenbo school was run by Windel McCandels in Palama Settlement, Honolulu. After having studied under William Chow, Emperado had studied under McCandels. After McCandles had died, Emperado took control of the school and renamed it Palama Settlement Kajukenbo Self-Defenses Institute of Karate.[17]

Shortly after its conception, the Korean War broke out, and with it Joe Holck, Peter Choo, Frank Ordonez, and Clarence Chang left Hawaii on active military service, leaving only Adriano Emperado to continue teaching the system.[18][14] Although Adriano Emperado was the listed as the chief instructor of Kajukenbo Institute, most of the instruction was handled by his younger brother, Joseph "Joe" Emperado.[19]

After the death of Joseph Emperado, the Kajukenbo Institute fell in chaos, causing 14 Black Belt-level instructors to leave the school after the week of his death. The Institute remained remaining inoperable for 3 months, until classes eventually restarted under the instruction of Joe Delacruz and Adriano Emperado.[20]

In 1958, over time the teachings moved to the Pacific Coast of the United States, specifically to a student from the institute, Aleju Reyes, who opened the first school outside the Hawaiian Islands, at the Travis Air Force Base (in California). One of his students was Richard Peralta, who started kajukenbo in 1959. That same year, Adriano Emperado integrated wushu techniques into kajukenbo, turning his art into a fluid combination of hard and soft techniques.

After 1959

One example of a Kajukenbo crest

Charles Gaylord, Tony Ramos, and Aleju Reyes, who had received their black belts from Emperado, passed down kajukenbo in the United States. Each of them opened their own kajukenbo school in California. With first being Tony Ramos in 1960, and followed by Reyes, Gaylord, Joe Halbuna. In 1965 Al Dacascos would follow.[9]

In 1967 Charles Gaylord, along with other accomplished Kajukenbo practitioners Aleju Reyes, Joe Halbuna, Tony Ramos, and Al Dacascos formed the Kajukenbo Association of America (KAA.) [21][better source needed]

Kajukenbo in present

Kajukenbo continues to evolve with each generation and maintains its primary focus on realism and practicality. There are usually martial arts schools that will change along with time to fit into the day's society. It is generally thought that "unfair" moves, such as strikes to the eyes or groin, are perfectly acceptable, as is whatever else the practitioner feels is necessary to get home that day.[22]

Currently, Kajukenbo includes more grappling techniques and more throws than other Kenpo schools. The defense techniques of this martial art are a fusion of blows taken from different styles, which, in a deadly sequence, leads to the immobilization, often definitive, of the opponent. It includes: joint locks, connections between two bones, low blows, and attacks with the help of different combinations. While it contains certain aspects of competition, it mainly focuses on real combat and the meaning of practical analysis. In general, people who practice Kajukenbo think that actions considered ethically "disgusting and extremely unpleasant," such as hitting the eyes or genitals, may be permissible, if they help with the defense against the attacker. Most Kajukenbo schools avoid the spectacular but impractical tricks and moves. The curriculum include different counterattacks against punches, knives, sticks, firearms and grappling.

Although the different types of Kajukenbo originate from a common base, variations are possible. This martial art is based on four different styles. It is impossible to incorporate them entirely: specialization is inevitable. An open approach therefore pushes Kajukenbo schools to incorporate strikes and techniques from other martial arts into their practice. Examples are Filipino Escrima and Japanese Aikidō.

Certain Kajukenbo schools direct attention to 26 fundamental forms ("Kata"). These Kata had been divided into 13 "Pinyans" and 13 "Concentrations". Each one has its own specific name: for example, the first one is called "crane strike/tiger's claw". The name of each "Concentration" describes its characteristic movement. So, the first concentration includes a crane strike and a tiger claw. These sequences are incorporated into Kajukenbo to enhance the student's skills. Each movement in these forms has its own meaning. For example, the first beat in "Pinyan 1" is a right outside strike that moves into the backbend position during the beat. This motion can be applied to block a blow with a punch. These sequences also focus on combat that faces more than one opponent.

Frank Ordonez's Kajukenbo Prayer includes a consistent mystical practice that most schools lack. Over time, students of this martial art have been taught that Kajkenbo is based on three fundamental elements: spirit, mind and body. Throughout the teachings the students and the instructor alike open their hands to represent peace; then they salute with a curtsey to express respect. Salute is practiced in many schools: in the same way, both students and instructors, when entering the gymnasium, greet people who have reached the level of black belt.


Training workouts emphasize cardio conditioning and functional strength. While individual schools may show variation, it would not be unusual to train with sandbags or boxing gloves. There are core self-defense techniques at the heart of Kajukenbo and Kajukenbo schools eschew impractical and flashy moves. Most kajukenbo curricula feature counter-attacks to punches, kicks, grabs, as well as using knives, sticks and guns to counter back. While this base of common knowledge will keep schools' styles similar, there is plenty of room for variation. This openness tends to encourage schools to incorporate other arts into their practice. The primary concentration of all Kajukenbo schools remains real world self-defense, because protecting one's self in a street-fighting situation is primary.[23]


Traditional Belt Colors

Ranking hierarchies vary widely from school to school.

Traditional Japanese martial art ranking is often followed. One common belt order is as follows: white, yellow, orange, purple, blue, green, brown, and black, followed by the other various degrees of the black belt. The schools have second and third stripe belts that feature a white for second or black for third stripe running down the center of the belt.

Black belt rankings and titles can also vary, with most schools adopting either Chinese or Japanese titles.

Official Branches

Original Method

Kajukenbo "Emperado Method" or "Traditional Hard Style".[citation needed]

Tum Pai

The original style of Tum Pai might have been put together by Adriano D. Emperado, Al Dacascos and Al Dela Cruz in the early 60s to create an advanced style for the Kajukenbo system.[24][25][26] In the mid-60s the developments that made up Tum Pai became incorporated into what was called "Chu'an Fa". In 1971 Jon A. Loren started incorporating the concepts of tai chi and Southern Sil-lum into his Kajukenbo classes. This was called Northern Kajukenbo until 1976. In 1976, while staying with Emperado in Hawaii, he demonstrated his concepts and techniques and asked if he could call it Tum Pai and bring the name back to life. Emperado granted permission with the acknowledgment that the original Tum Pai followed a different path than the revised Tum Pai soft style. The name Tum Pai, which means "central way", fits the tai chi concept blended into the Kajukenbo format.[9]

Chu'an Fa

In Hawaii during the early 1960s Adriano Emperado, along with students Al Dacascos and Al Dela Cruz, incorporated innovations of the style Tum Pai and other martial arts into their Kajukenbo training.[27] Later it became obvious that they were no longer doing Tum Pai and it would have to be named something else. In the mid 60s Al Dacascos moved to Northern California and continued training in the Northern and Southern styles of Sil-lum Kung Fu to enhance his Kajukenbo training. It was in 1965 that the name Chu'an Fa was introduced.

Wun Hop Kuen Do

Wun Hop Kuen Do was founded by Al Dacascos. In Cantonese Chinese Wun Hop Kuen Do means "combination fist art style". Wun Hop Kuen Do techniques identify with, and are based on, the Kajukenbo system.[28] This martial arts style incorporates techniques from many different styles including Northern and Southern Kung Fu systems and Escrima. Since this style is always being developed it is not a fixed system, practitioners of the style are always striving to improve it by the incorporation and improvement of useful methods or techniques. In addition the philosophy of remaining "unfixed" also applies to the defense techniques, in that there is no defined response to a given situation, and they attempt to fit the situation as it arises. This idea leads to self-defense that is creative and allows one to think about what is the best response. This is one of the primary things that sets this style apart from most others; it is a martial art that asks you to think for yourself and use your own common sense to actually see what you should do next. There are many drills to allow practice of this type of fluidity and creativity that lead to the ability to respond reflexively to any situation—which is in contrast to many other training methods where one is supposed to mimic techniques which are often not practical, except under very defined circumstances.

Associations & Groups

Emperado's Kajukenbo Self Defense Institute Worldwide Inc.

Founded by Sijo Adriano Emperado, it exists as an umbrella aiming to bring all branches of Kajukenbo under Sijo's umbrella. One body, while appreciating each different part of the body. The KSDI welcomes all true practitioners of Kajukenbo. The KSDI is currently under the administration of GM Kimo Emperado with deputy administrator GM Glen Fraticelli.[29]

Kajukenbo Association of America

In 1967 Charles Gaylord, along with other accomplished Kajukenbo practitioners Aleju Reyes, Joe Halbuna, Tony Ramos, John Ramos and Al Dacascos formed the Kajukenbo Association of America (KAA.)[30][self-published source?] The KAA organization lasted until the early 1970s, but it was brought back in 1980 under the leadership of Charles Gaylord who had recently received his 9th degree black belt under founder Adrian Emperado. Fifteen years later in September 1995, the KAA's black belts promoted Charles Gaylord to the honorary rank of 10th degree black belt. Grandmaster Gaylord's traditional Kajukenbo curriculum continues to be taught by his chief instructors who operate Kajukenbo schools in Hawaii and other parts of the United States and Japan. as of the last 5 years sgm.hemenes has taken the gaylord method world wide and is now in over 40 countries wwkaa.com [5] This is an issue of contention because Hemenes had left the Gaylord Branch and was refused re-entry.

Kajukenbo Tum Pai Association

The Kajukenbo Tum Pai Association is dedicated to help unite the practitioners of the Martial Art of Kajukenbo Tum Pai. The Association has a compiled registry of all Black Belts from all Tum Pai lineages. A current and updated Kajukenbo Tum Pai family tree is available at their website.[31] They have information about schools and instructors who teach Kajukenbo Tum Pai.[32] The Association organizes the annual Kajukenbo Tum Pai Association Annual Black Belt Meeting, Kajukenbo Tum Pai Annual Workshops, and the Tum Pai Association Family Luau.[33]

In popular fiction

The 1982 children's book A Bundle of Sticks, by Pat Rhoads Mauser, is the story of a fifth-grade boy Ben Tyler, who is being bullied by a much larger boy named Boyd Bradshaw. One day Ben comes home from school with a badly bruised nose, so Ben's parents decide to enroll him in a Kajukenbo martial arts school. Ben reluctantly agrees to attend the school because his mother has already paid the instructor who is known only as Sifu. At first Ben thinks he will not enjoy Kajukenbo, but he eventually discovers how valuable his training is when he successfully defends himself from Boyd.[34]


  • Thomas A. Green (2001). Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 219–224. ISBN 9781576071502.
  • DeMarco, Michael (2020). Some Western Pioneers in Asian Martial Arts: An Anthology. Via Media Publishing. ISBN 9798554658143.


  1. ^ a b DeMarco (2020); "[Founders/"Black Belt Society"] decided to meld the best aspects of each to create the ultimate fighting system. Peter Choo brought Korean Tangsoodo[sic], Frank Ordinez added Sekeino Jujitsu, Joe Hock[sic] contributed elements of Kodokan Judo, Adriano Emperado provided "Old Pine Tree" Kenpo and Clarance Chang completed the pool with Northern and Southern Shaolin (Sil-Lum) Gongfu."
  2. ^ a b Bishop, John (1994). "BATTLE OF THE ARTS! Gracie Jujutsu vs. Kajukenbo". Black Belt Magazine (May 1994 Issue). p. 41. Retrieved February 21, 2023. These five men of vision were Peter Choo, the Hawaii welterweight boxing champion and tang soo do black belt; Frank Ordonez, a sekeino jujutsu black belt; Joe Holck, a kodokan judo black belt; Clarence Chang, a sil lum pai kung fu instructor, and Adriano D. Emperado, a Chinese kenpo and escrima stylist.
  3. ^ a b c Coleman, Jim (1 July 1982). "Kajukenbo: American Self-Defense". Black Belt Magazine (July 1982 Issue). Active Interest Media, Inc. pp. 38–41. Retrieved 19 February 2017 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Green (2001), page 219
  5. ^ a b "Budo International Magazine" (PDF). Usadojo.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 October 2014. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  6. ^ a b Bishop, John. "Adriano D. Emperado The Force Behind Kajukenbo". Kajukenboinfo.com. Archived from the original on December 17, 2014. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  7. ^ "Black Belt". Black Belt Magazine. Active Interest Media, Inc. 1 October 1991. Retrieved 19 February 2017 – via Google Books.((cite web)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. ^ Green (2001), page 219: "The name of [Kajukenbo] is an acronym from the names of the martial arts systems that served as its basis. KA refers to Korean Karate (Tang Soo Do), KEN refers to Okinawan kenpô, JU refers to Japanese Kôdôkan Jûdô[sic] and Kodenkan Jûjutsu and BO refers to Chinese boxing and European boxing."
  9. ^ a b c d DeMarco (2020) Chapter 1: Ethnic Strife and Origins of Kajukenbo (by Jeffrey Barlow, Ph.D. and Morgan Day, B.A.)
  10. ^ "Kajukenbo History". Kajukenbo.org. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  11. ^ Hallander, Jane (1987). "KAJUKENBO: The early years". Black Belt Magazine (Nov. 1987 issue). pp. 44–47. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  12. ^ "AN INTERVIEW WITH ADRIANO D. EMPERADO". Kajukenboinfo.com. Archived from the original on 21 January 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  13. ^ Green (2001), page 219: "Peter Y.Y. Choo[...]black belt in Tang Soo Dô-Moo Duk Kwan[sic]...
  14. ^ a b Mary Yu Danico (2014). Asian American Society: An Encyclopedia. SAGE Publications. ISBN 9781483365602. ... and after most of the founders were drafted to fight in the Korean War, Filipino–Hawai'ian Adriano Directo Emperado became the de facto leader of the new school.
  15. ^ Hallander, Jane (1987). "KAJUKENBO: The early years". Black Belt Magazine (Nov. 1987 issue). p. 44. Retrieved February 21, 2023. Kajukenbo's founding is commonly attributed to Adriano Emperado, a student of kenpo originator James Mitose and later of William Chow, who was then Mitose's top-ranked student.
  16. ^ "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. 20 February 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ Hallander, Jane (1987). "KAJUKENBO: The early years". Black Belt Magazine (Nov. 1987 issue). pp. 44–45. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  18. ^ Green (2001), page 221: "During the Korean War (1950-1953), four cofounders, Choo, Ordonez, Holck and Chang, left Hawaii for military duty, leaving Emperado to teach Kajukenbo with his younger brother Joe and his sister DeChi.
  19. ^ Hallander, Jane (1987). "KAJUKENBO: The early years". Black Belt Magazine (Nov. 1987 issue). p. 45. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  20. ^ Hallander, Jane (1987). "KAJUKENBO: The early years". Black Belt Magazine (Nov. 1987 issue). p. 47. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  21. ^ "Budo International: The Way Of The Warrior" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-11. Retrieved 2014-12-21.
  22. ^ "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. 1 February 1991. Retrieved 19 February 2017 – via Google Books.
  23. ^ "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. 1 December 1986. Retrieved 19 February 2017 – via Google Books.
  24. ^ Bishop, John Evan (1 October 2006). Kajukenbo -- the Original Mixed Martial Art. Kajukenbo. ISBN 9781598726091. Retrieved 1 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  25. ^ Black Belt. Active Interest Media, Inc. 1 August 1999. p. 51. Retrieved 1 January 2018 – via Internet Archive. chuan fa kajukenbo.
  26. ^ Green (2001), page 219-224
  27. ^ "Black Belt". Active Interest Media, Inc. 1 July 1982. Retrieved 1 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  28. ^ King, Fred; Olrech, Dan (May 1984). "Al Dacascos' Wun Hop Kuen Do: The Truly Complete Martial Art". Black Belt. Retrieved 19 February 2017 – via Google Books.
  29. ^ McCalmon, Jacob W., Bulldog Martial Arts, Franklin, TN
  30. ^ HILL, Robert (8 September 2010). World of Martial Arts !. Lulu.com. ISBN 9780557016631. Retrieved 20 February 2017 – via Google Books.[self-published source]
  31. ^ "Kajukenbo Tum Pai Family Tree". Kajukenbo Tum Pai Association. Retrieved 21 Nov 2021.
  32. ^ "Kajukenbo Tum Pai School and Instructor List". Kajukenbo Tum Pai Association. Retrieved 21 Nov 2021.
  33. ^ "Kajukenbo Tum Pai Home". Kajukenbo Tum Pai Association. Retrieved 21 Nov 2021.
  34. ^ "A Bundle of Sticks".Pat Rhoads Mauser.':ISBN 0-689-30899-X